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Contemporary Art Market: Photographic images show deceptive realism

THIS WEEK two of London's leading avant-garde galleries are showcasing photography, now considered as significant a medium for artistic expression as painting and sculpture.

White Cube (44 Duke Street, W1) is showing a light box by the Canadian Jeff Wall, while the German photographer Candida Hofer has her first one-person show in London at Anderson O'Day (255 Portobello Road, W11).

Until 26 February, White Cube's single small room contains a small light box (39cms by 48 cms) illuminating a colour photograph of a naked, white- haired woman of giant proportions, standing on the staircase of an American public library. It is called The Giant, comes from an edition of eight and costs dollars 18,000 ( pounds 12,500) plus VAT.

Jeff Wall, 48, constructs events that have never happened and presents them with sharply focused realism. In this case he photographed the empty interior of a municipal library, then the naked woman, and, separately, all the figures who pore over books at the library tables or consult catalogues. Then he put them together by computer.

Candida Hofer, 49, adopts a diametrically opposite approach. Her ambition is to bring the photographic image as close to human experience as possible. She uses a hand-held camera mounted with a narrow wide-angle, approximating the width of human vision, and uses no artificial light.

The colour photographs at Anderson O'Day were mostly made during a residency in Britain in 1992. She photographed interiors, mostly of public buildings, in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Most of the spaces she chose combined historically distinctive architecture with modern furnishings, such as stacked tubular chairs and upholstered sofas in a reception area. Since she is taking human-eye views of generically familiar spaces, it is a shock to be made to focus on the anomalies that one normally passes without thinking.

The photographs come in two sizes, 24cms by 36cms or 36cms by 52 cms and are printed in editions of six; the smaller ones cost pounds 1,100 and the larger pounds 1,500. In two cases, only one print from the edition is still available and they have been priced at pounds 2,000 each.

(Photograph omitted)